Rooted in Jesus – an ECF Recap

February 10, 2020

Community, innovation, mutual learning, worship, collaboration, joy—these are just a handful of words that might begin to summarize the Rooted in Jesus gathering the Episcopal Church Foundation produced in conjunction with a number of other Episcopal organizations such as the Episcopal Church, Forward Movement, Forma, the Episcopal Evangelism Society, Missional Voices, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, Membership Vision, the Diocese of Atlanta, and more.

Rooted in Jesus started as an idea to bring several of the Episcopal Church’s networks together. The goal was to break down the silos that have formed between the evangelism, missional, and formation communities. In other words, we wanted to get the entire Episcopal Church to take part in one conversation about Discipleship through seven different tracks or disciplines: Formation, Evangelism, Mission, Leadership, Stewardship, Preaching, and Communications.

From Jan. 22-24 in Atlanta, nearly 1,300 people convened to have the conversation and experience together. We expected about 850 people, planned for 1000 and were quite astonished and delighted by the fact that nearly 1300 people showed up. Participants represented 850 lay people, 8 bishops (1 person who became bishop elect while with us), 26 deacons, and over 400 priests. They came from 49 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., and 5 countries. This was the largest and most diverse gathering of the Church outside of the General Convention.

On Wednesday, January 22, the gathering kicked off at the Clark Atlanta University gymnasium. The CAU student choir welcomed everyone with uplifting and inspiring song. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was with us and introduced The Rev. Dr. William Barber II who gave a phenomenal keynote address. The Rev. Nancy Frausto facilitated a panel discussion between the Rt. Rev. Rob Wright, The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, and the Rev. Rob Stephens about Prophetic Witness in the 21st Century. All this was followed by the Revive ATL Revival with the Presiding Bishop and the Diocese of Atlanta. The next two days were filled with workshops, smaller plenaries, and panel discussions. The sending Eucharist at All Saints’ on Friday was Episcopal worship at its best.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said about the event, “This may be the beginning of what scholars call a paradigm shift in the Episcopal Church. If we all get together, then there’ll be movement that will make a real difference in the world.” Other comments like, “Best conference ever,” and “We have to do this again!” were sentiments expressed by many.

Though ECF, in partnership with all the other host organizations, are actively discerning what another gathering might look like, we do know that this is not the type of event that will occur annually. Many have expressed their desire to see something of this magnitude convened every three years.

ECF summoned its experimental spirit and took a risk because it believes in the power of community, partnership, and mutual learning. Though it was the first gathering of its type, it was a huge success, largely in part to the tenacity and grit of the organizers and the hospitality, grace, and joy of its participants.
For those longing to take part of the ongoing conversation, be sure to join over 700 other folks continuing to engage in the conversation of discipleship on the Rooted in Jesus Facebook group page. If you’d like to hear any of the speakers from the Wednesday opening at Clark Atlanta, the ECF Main stage presentations, or the Sending Eucharist on Friday, click HERE.

Melissa Rau and Bill Campbell